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India's Tata Group Expands Its Innovation Base Beyond The Nano Into Aerospace.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on February 20, 2008

India’s striking efforts in innovation warrants close watch and the recent moves by the Tata Group into aerospace promise to bring new business models to the world. Last month, Tata Motors came out with the $2,500 Nano car—not only a new way of putting together a cheap car but a new business model to go with it. And now parent Tata Group is linking up with Boeing in a parts deal, Sikorsky Helicopters in a deal to build cabins for S-92 helicoperts and Europe’s EADS Defense and Security group to bid on an advanced communications project for the Indian army.

This information comes to me by way of a comment just posted from India. He goes by the name singh.sushi on his email. Great.

Low cost innovation is becoming an Indian speciality. You can see it in health care (eye surgery), telecom (cell phone service by the minute), manufacturing (the Nano). I’m sure Boeing is partnering up with Tata to sell more commercial jets into the booming Indian market but if it is open and smart, it may find itself with a new, cheaper way, to make components and assemble planes. Ditto for Sikorsky and EADS.

Reader Comments


February 21, 2008 6:45 PM


The lowest cost for an automobile that meets contemporary environmental and safety standards is roughly $7000. The Nano is priced at $2500 because its a polluting deathtrap that barely meets 1950's standards for automobiles. If this is how India innovates, then they can keep their innovation.


February 22, 2008 12:52 AM

The innovation in Tata's car lies in substituting the unsafe and inefficient two wheelers with a vehicle that is admittedly a no frills one but still manages to provide a RELATIVELY safe four wheeler to masses for the price of a two wheeler. And yes the innovation about the NANO is not in the cost but includes the innovations in design, production lines and ditribution. Finally the innovation is to be kept in India as its for the Indians and not for some overprivileged highly opinionated folks who cannot differentiate between BREAD and CAKES just like the FRENCH QUEEN who met a very horrible end.


February 22, 2008 1:56 AM

The lowest cost for a car that meets contemporary environmental and safety standards is well over $10,000. The Nano is priced at $2,500 because it lacks airbags, TCS, and ABS. It's well on the way to meeting Euro-4 standards. Even if these were added the car would cost not more than $6,000. Its engine (with a single shaft balancer), CVT, and shell construction are the absolute latest. TataSkeptic seems to be clueless about cars in general. The Tata Nano is a game changing innovation and has forced the likes of Toyota to go back to the drawing board to redefine how cars are designed and produced. While the world's auto leaders are busy studying the Tata Nano model, TataSkeptic is free to go back to his trusty expensive and shoddy contraptions.


February 22, 2008 4:19 AM

In the absence of any substantiation of his allegations by TataSkeptic, they (the allegations) remain just that - allegations and, prejudiced ones at that.

As against this is the following extract from Mr. Tata's speech during the inauguration function "Of late, when it became known that we will in fact be making such a car, the attention has moved to questioning the pollution it would create. Let me again assure those who have concern for the environment that the car we present to you today will meet all current legislated emission criteria and will have a lower pollution level than even a two wheeler being manufactured in India today".

Now, I would wait until he delivers (or fails to deliver) on this promise before casting stones. Obviously, TataSkeptic is a person in hurry and wants to take on the role of plaintiff, jury and judge all at once and waste no time on finer aspects of fairness of trial.


February 22, 2008 12:00 PM

Yo tataskeptic,
Which century are you stuck in? 7th?
The nano meets all contemporary standards in safety & emission & possibly can out do most cars from ur country as well in that respect.

Its a real value for money.


February 22, 2008 3:16 PM

Take it easy TataSkeptic.

Tata's innovation caters to bottom of pyramid market. With a monthly payment of $30, Tata Nano brings a car to an affordable level to tens of millions of new customers in India. Tata Motors designed Nano keeping Indian market in mind. Winning customers belonging to other countries is just going to be a side effect.

Original poster is right about Indians innovating in different fields. To include poorer sections of the society, telecom companies introduced features like life long free incoming calls, 2 cents per minute calling, etc. Handsets were sold for as low as 20 USD. Telecom customers innovated too, using 'missed call' calls.

In health care, organizations like Narayana Hrudayalaya are doing tremendous work. I found their idea of decoupling health care from personal wealth refreshing and novel.

About $2500 car, skeptics intially said "it can't be done". When skeptics were proven wrong, they are talking about pollution and safety. Market(Indian) will decide whether Nano is successful or not, skeptics and their views doesn't matter.

When Tatas began their first ever car project, Indica, 'skepticism cycle' played out similarly. Some people doesn't learn from history, of course, they will end up making the same mistakes again.


March 9, 2008 1:07 PM

With the tata Nano success there is news of TATA group geting into the aviation business. With its long term experience in providing autmotive solutions for bottom of pyramid,it would be no surprise when they will tomorrow be able to offer the lowest cost helicopters or aircrafts for emerging markets.

click here

May 14, 2011 12:42 PM

I admire exactly what you have succesfully done in this article. I enjoy the piece exactly where you say you are doing this to help give back but I would certainly think by all the comments that this process is definitely on your side as well.

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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